Credentials of faith

If one woman can be required to carry papers proving she’s Muslim and that she has permission to wear a hijab, what ought any of the rest of us be required to produce to prove we’re Christian (or an adherent of any other religion) and have permission to wear a sign of our faith?

Melona Clark, a student at Hampton University, a historically black university in southeastern Virginia, “was forced by the school to obtain a letter from her chaplain and a letter from her mosque before the university would allow her to wear her headscarf on campus, local news outlet WTKR-TV reported on Friday,” according to an October 7 Huffington Post article. A couple of questions come to mind at once.

First, is a mere paper certificate or a letter from the appropriate official all it takes to prove a person is Muslim or Christian or anything else? Garrison Keillor reportedly opined that sleeping in church doesn’t make you Christian any more than sleeping in a garage makes you an automobile. Any dormant occupier of a church pew who can produce a membership certificate and a letter of reference, by Hampton University’s standard, has permission to claim the name Christian. Garrison Keillor appears to disagree. So would Jesus, I think. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said; it takes doing the will of God (Matt. 7:21). I suspect a Muslim would agree. It’s lifestyle and not bureaucratic approval that counts.

Second, what would count for us Christians as validation of our profession of faith? I have the feeling that a mere piece of paper won’t suffice. And considering what would suffice makes me think all those who are requiring documentation of others had better be careful lest real, substantial evidence of their faith be required of them as well.

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